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Valentine’s Day

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Must have been around Valentine’s Day in 1877 when a young man named Donaho took pen in hand to write a love letter to his sweetheart in Dallas.

“Dear Darling,” he began, off to an affectionate start. “‘Tis with pleasure that I seat my self on the Banks of Llano River a Beautiful stream Rippling its way through the Western firmament and on each side…far as the eye Can behold is Mountains and prairies which vast herds of Buffalo roam…the lean Cyote Can be seen skulking around and all is lovely to the eye of one sad Boy…”

Clearly, Donaho couldn’t claim to be the world’s best speller and he apparently missed class the day they talked about capitalization, comma usage and run-on sentences, but as spring settled on Texas, he obviously had an eye for nature’s beauty. He also had an eye for beautiful women, which was why he was “one sad Boy…” (Ellipses have been inserted to make his epistle easier to read.)

No less longingly than Romeo for Juliet, Donaho pined for his lovely Anna in far away North Texas.

“Could Anna But know the sad and shocking feelings that exist in my bosom,” Donaho went on, “When I think of my Anna….Yes the Rose…the day star of my life I am winding my way through this barren Country to Mexico for my idea is to be a Western Warrior…”

Did Donaho intend to join the Cavalry or saddle up with the Texas Rangers? Obviously, he knew the days ahead would be dangerous. “We may never see each other again,” he lamented, “but live with hope. My desire is that we shall both pass the short but treacherous hours away willing and well…Darling to dream of you by night and sigh for you by day.”

Then, serenaded by the river, he really lets it flow: “What a luxury for me it would be to behold your illustrious imige [image]…Yes Anna your eyes burn Liquid fire so flaming to my heart that [it] is irresistible.”

(Ladies, if you need to catch your breath and fan yourselves, please pause here before continuing.)

Poor Donaho felt so lonely, so much longing for his darling Anna. The road seemingly stretched on and on.

“As I travel along the Western horizon I seldom meet any one except the old hunter who is as grave as the Wind,” he despaired in his awful solitude. “My only companion is three young men…we have a lonsime [lonesome] Time of it.”

Finally, Donaho cut to the chase. In this case, he and his pals figured as the objects of a literal chase. He had not signed up as a “Western Warrior” to protect the frontier while wearing the blue uniform of a horse soldier or a lawman’s white hat.

In truth, Donaho rode the Owl Hoot Trail as an outlaw, having recently robbed the stagecoach between Austin and Fredericksburg. Now he was on the lam. But like many young man, Donaho had hope for the future, a desire to make a good living at his chosen vocation and a comfortable home for the girl he wanted to marry and spend the rest of his life with.

“We inhabit the Western Country and will Continue until we get Rich which I most emphatickly [emphatically] think we will and when we do I am Coming Back to dallas,” he wrote. (Clearly, this was before the city earned its Big D status.)

“Wait for me Anna for I am solid with you…God is my witness I do love you…I am held to no Locality…Bound to no personal object except yourself…Yes wait for me and I will make you a jenerous [generous] husband.”

Alas, Anna never received the letter. But she did learn of its contents when the Galveston News gleefully published it for all to enjoy after a Gillespie County ranging company captured Donaho and his fellow robbers. When they went through his things, the rangers found his unfinished love letter and cheerfully leaked it to the press.

The missive from the sad, bad Donaho caught the attention of readers in Texas and across the nation. Even the serious-minded New York Times considered Donaho’s letter interesting enough to merit inclusion in its pages, publishing it on March 11, 1877.

The newspaper concluded: “The young man will have to serve five or ten years in the Penitentiary before he can lay his fortune at the feet of gentle Anna…and claim her hand.”

Whether Anna waited for her love struck swain to get out of the joint is not known. If she didn’t, a fellow capable of piling it on that thick probably found himself another “day star” with eyes of liquid fire. Who knows? She might even have kept him on the straight and narrow.

© Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
February 14, 2008 column
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